Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Magic and Realism in a Homemade Chihuahua Museum

Chihuahua Chronicles #3

Tom Barry

Elizabeth Dávila with collection of mammoth fossils / Tom Barry

I wasn’t expecting to spend more than a half-hour at Laguna de Bustillos.

Ready to get back on the road to Cuauhtémoc, I had accomplished what I had intended -- having taken a series of photos of the nearly completely dry lakebed strewn with thousands of dead trout. To see this graphic evidence of Chihuahua’s severe drought, I had taken the longer, free road heading southwest from Chihuahua City.

After two years without much rain, the lake was retreating as much as 200 meters a day, according to newspaper reports. A combination of factors – two years of intense drought, increased deep well drilling, and the disappearing watershed – were endangering the future existence of the lagoon.

Just when I was getting back on the libre toward Cuauhtémoc, I spotted a sign for the Favela Museum.

A dying community next to a badly contaminated and increasingly dry lake is an odd place for a museum. Curious, I turned into the lakefront community of Favela – one of more than a dozen dying or dead ejido communities that ring the disappearing lake.

Unlike most urban areas and more prosperous villages in Mexico, where home and business owners delight in painting their building in bright and joyous colors, Favela is the color of dirt and gravel – a couple of blocks of impoverished adobe and concrete-block homes that have probably never had a paint makeover.

The Favela Museum doesn’t need a sign to attract attention. The upbeat brash colors of the trippy murals that cover the walls of this house/museum demand your attention like a blooming cactus flower.

Just what is this place?

Standing at the door, the two owners/curators Eliseo Villegas and Elizabeth Dávila welcomed me to the Don Isidro Fabela Alfaro Museo.

If you feel the need for wonder and a healthy injection of inspiration, then take the libre from Chihuahua and pay the 25 pesos (roughly $1.85) entry fee to the museo – where North American prehistory, Mexican rural history, and a vision of homegrown environmental sustainability mesh in magical ways.

If you are longing for a bit of magical realism, then get off the libre and step inside the world of Eliseo and Elizabeth.

This isn’t Macondo; it’s Favela.

Flea Markets, Casinos, and Home in the Museum

It may have been my New Mexico plates that explain why Eliseo and Elizabeth were immediately so friendly and welcoming. 

There was, of course, a crossborder connection here in Favela, like most anywhere you travel in Chihuahua.

Eliseo knows better than I the road from New Mexico to central Chihuahua. For many years, he traveled the long road to the other side -- up to Nuevo Casas Grandes, turning northeast toward Palomas, and then on to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Before his truck died and his visa expired, Eliseo used to load the back of his old truck with the arts and crafts of Elizabeth – his painter wife and New Age explorer (Her email prefix is “oriente del cosmos.”).

The old milk jugs abandoned by the ejidatarios and Mennonite farmers around Cuauhtémoc have become aesthetic objects in the artful hands of Elizabeth. The metal jugs were the most popular items on sale by Eliseo at the flea markets in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Some of these cheerfully painted jugs – usually with flowers -- are currently on display in the museum’s patio.

After he sold all of Elizabeth’s art creations, Eliseo would go back on the road, heading south with a load of used appliances and other discarded items he acquired in the north. This crossborder entrepreneur made money coming and going – and saved money while in the north sleeping in his truck, spending the nights in the parking lots of the Native American casinos near Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Entering their museum/home, I could only laugh – in appreciation and wonder – not knowing exactly how to absorb and understand all that was before me.

So what is this museum? Well, obviously, it’s hard to describe – a difficulty that Eliseo and Elizabeth have also confronted.

When they founded the museum five years ago, soon after they moved to Favela from Cuauhtémoc, Elizabeth chose upbeat, indigenous name: the Rayénari Museo (Ray of Light Museum). But it now bears a less New Age-tinged, more education-focused name: Museo Paleontológico Don Isidro Fabela Alfaro – a title that links its paleontological core with its trappings of local history, apparently designed to attract visits by school groups from Chihuahua City and Cuauhtémoc.

Elizabeth and Eliseo have turned their four-room home into a combination history and natural history museum – all crammed together in an art-gallery ambience. Colorful murals cover the walls along with beautiful paintings by Elizabeth, including a beguiling portrait of Frida Kahlo.

Huge mammoth fossils are piled on a long table that runs down the center of the main room, and everywhere you look something else that is equally surprising and delightful. Over five hundred fossils have been numbered and catalogued -- and registered with the University of Chihuahua.

Mammoths were members of the elephant (Proboscidean) family, and their remains have been found in numerous North American locations, including in many Mexican sites like the one at Laguna de Bustillos. It is not clear how old the tusks, molars, rib bones, and other mammoth fossils collected at the Favela museum are. Some of these huge elephants lived a million years ago. Columbian Mammoths found elsewhere in Mexico inhabited the region from the middle the last Ice Age (Pleistocene) -- about 700,000 years ago -- to the close of the Pleistocene 10-13,000 years ago. Before visiting the mammoth museum, you may want to check out our mammoth past at:

Don Isidro Fabela Alfaro, whose image is displayed outside the museum, was one of early ejidatarios and found of the ejido that now prefers the “v” to the “b” spelling of Favela.  There would, of course, be no Favela Museum without Favela -- not only because where Elizabeth and Eliseo decided to live but also because of what the ejido has done with his land since it founding in the early 1930s.

Ejido and Environment

How did all these massive mammoth bones come to occupy the central room of the modest home of Elizabeth and Eliseo? As I came understand, the answer involves the land use patterns of the Favela ejido.

For many decades, the area’s ejidatorios eked out a living on the shores of this ancient basin, which collects groundwater that seeps and flows from the Sierra Madre Occidental. Growing corn and beans and grazing cattle in the surrounding grasslands and forests, they led a hard life. They didn’t prosper, but they survived, at least until the last couple decades when he diaspora to the cities and to the United States began.

The well-organized collection of washbasins, antique furniture, farm implements, and photos – brought to the museum by the remaining ejidatarios and carefully displayed in the yard  – tell this campesino story.

The lagoon and the land tell a parallel story – one of the exploitation, abuse, and death of the grasslands, the juniper forests, and the Chihuahuan Desert hills. Today, the land lies bare – primarily due to clear-cutting, overgrazing and unsustainable farming.

Adrian Estrada, 57, is one of the few ejidatarios who is still trying to make a living off the land, and he manages, he tells me, because he has many hectares of good land back in the hills and because he has cared for his land.  Like most close observers of the rural economy in Chihuahua, Estrada attributes the current water crisis to global climate change and unsustainable land management practices locally.

Estrada points to the denuded hills past the lake, saying: “I remember when those cerros were higher. But over the years, the wind has blown the tops of our hills and mountains away, covering us with dust and not attracting the rains as they used to.”

Since the land no longer gives – “No se da la tierra,” Adrian explained -- the ejidatarios of Favela began to sell their land about a dozen years ago. Not selling the ownership to their properties (since nobody would want this now-sterile land) but actually selling the earth.

Sands of Time

Playas are scattered throughout the Chihuahuan Desert. These are hard-packed often-salty shallow basins that catch the seepage and drainage of the monsoons. Like desert playa, Laguna de Bustillos expands after the summer rains. But unlike the ephemeral water catchments of the playas, the lagoon traditionally has been more like a lake, with the quantity of water and its expanse varying according to the rain and snowfall of recent years. In some years, after the torrential rains during the summer, the lagoon even edged up to backyards of the surrounding communities.

It was such a year when Elizabeth and Eliseo, a married couple, moved to Favela from Cuauhtémoc to be near the lake, which, when full as it was then, is a thing of unusual beauty – vistas of seemingly endless expanses of desert and water.

Although highly contaminated, the immense lagoon seemed a miracle of nature – a large lake in the middle of the desert. But signs of environmental sustainability and rural development gone awry could not be missed. The wastes of the town of Anáhuac and Cuauhtémoc had long flowed into the lagoon, including the discharges of a cellulose plant on the edge of the lagoon. The surge of intensive agricultural enterprises by Mennonite farmers – who have drilled for water at unprecedented depths and whose crops depend on chemical fertilizers – have also contaminated the lagoon waters, leaving a layer of agrochemical dust that blows off the lakebed when the waters recede.

Behind their new home, materials companies from Cuauhtémoc were mining the land for the sand that had accumulated over the millennia in the region’s largest natural lake.

The sand and gravel quarry that borders Favela, extending to the backyard fences of some homes and bordering the road into the community, represents the last gasp of the ejido. The death of these campesino communities – created during the apex of the Mexican Revolution’s agrarian reforms – underscores the end of an era. Yet like the sheen of post-monsoon water in the desert playas, the era of ejidos in Mexico seems an ephemeral part in the course of the history of the land, especially when digging deeper into the region’s prehistoric past.

Along with the mountains of sand, the machinery uncovered a graveyard of prehistoric life. When Elizabeth and Eliseo came to Favela, they were horrified that the bones of mammoths and other still-unidentified vertebrates were not being collected and preserved.

Elizabeth is the official curator of the paleontology museum, which has the blessing of the National Institute of Art and History (INAH) and of the lead paleontologist at the University of Chihuahua.

According to researchers from U.S. and Mexican universities, the paleontological findings harbored in this homemade museum are largely vertebrates of mammals that emerged in the Pleistocene, although the Favela museum also displays fossils of numerous mid-Cretaceous invertebrates, including oysters, gastropods, ammonites, and bivalves.

Why were so many mammoth remains found next to Favela? Some have speculated that this area was a type of cemetery for mammoths, which weighed as much as 12 tons.

As Elizabeth guides me through the main showroom, she tells me: “People often say, ‘Aren’t you afraid to live in a mammoth graveyard?’ But no, I feel safe and rooted, as if the mammoths that lived here are now protecting us.”

But it is not just the remnants of almost incomprehensible past that amaze the museumgoer in Favela. It’s the conjunction with what seems, by comparison, to be almost the present. A collection of Apache daggers and arrowheads – dating back a couple of hundred of years -- are displayed on the wall. There are also rows of metates and morteros left behind by other indigenous people, including the Rarámuri, who found sustenance around the ancient water basin Also part of the unusual mix of natural and human history are sepia and faded black-and-white photos of the early ejidatarios..

Prehistory mixes with colonial, frontier, indigenous, and Mexican history with an ease and seamlessness that leaves you dizzy – especially knowing that this couple as captured all this past in only five years without any government or outside help.

A Sustainable Future

Elizabeth and Eliseo are, however, not stuck in the past. They are also living the future of survival and sustainability in Favela.

Taking to heart the lessons of unsustainable land-use practices and of the new challenges of climate change, Eliseo has in the last year created yet another dimension of the museum – establishing what apparently is the only garden in this rural area, building a greenhouse, and installing a solar water-heating system on the museum/house’s roof, all on the cheap.

Producing their own food supply and reducing their energy costs is, of course, one goal of this new museum display.

But Eliseo also aims to create a living museum for visiting schoolchildren –showing how seeds flourish in the greenhouse even in winter, how the sun not only bakes the earth but can also heat our water, and how appropriate technology functions in the form of a simple drip-irrigation system.

 Elizabeth and Eliseo in front of new greenhouse / Tom Barry
 Compost produced by Eliseo / Tom Barry
 Eliseo's compost pile / Tom Barry

Another World

“I don’t understand why the government and the universities don’t help us maintain the fossils and the museum,” lamented Dávila. She and her husband would appreciate governmental financial support, but the government, she said, “complains that they don’t have enough resources to help.”

“Well, neither do we. We don’t have the room nor the money to preserve all this,” she said.

Yet, the couple doesn’t relish the thought of seeing all the remnants of natural and human history they have so carefully accumulated carted off to some storeroom in the capital.

“What we have here is part of the heritage of the nation,” observed Dávila,” but it is also the heritage of all humanity. And we want this museum to be accessible to everyone, not just a collection but a place of learning.”

While the community of Favela has supported the establishment of the museum, there are some who regard it as simply another way that a poor family has found to scratch out a living in these tough times.

Eliseo and Elizabeth hope that all their work and dreams for the museum will eventually result in a steady income stream, making possible, among other things, for them to separate home from museum.  But they also dream of saving the pesos needed to buy a new truck. Eliseo is eager to get back on the road again and revive the flea market-based crossborder mercantilism that once proved so rewarding.

As we exchanged our goodbyes, Eliseo and Elizabeth stressed their hope in attracting more visitors from the across the border to visit their museum/house. I promised to spread the word and to pass their way again in the not-too-distant future.

As I was taking my leave, Eliseo handed me a strangely heavy, odd-looking black rock, explaining that it was a meteorite found in the desert nearby -- a “recuerdo” from another world.

Friday, July 27, 2012

On the Libre to Cuauhtémoc

Chihuahua Chronicles #2

Tom Barry

Most everyone heading to Cuauhtémoc takes the toll road. It’s faster, more direct.

The cuota highway, however, has nothing special to offer in the way of new manifestations of northwest Mexico’s water disaster – just more dead cows on barren rangeland, the usual new agribusiness projects that are making the desert bloom pumping the aquifer dry, and the dusty haze that so often clouds the blue desert sky of the Chihuahua desert.

It was the first day of July – election day in Mexico – and I had just spent a couple of days in Chihuahua City interviewing government officials, ranchers, and activists. Martín Solís, leader of El Barzón (a smaller farmers’ organization founded in the mid-1990s), suggested that on my way to Cuauhtémoc I take the libre, which, unlike the cuota highway, skirts Laguna de Bustillos.

The libre had all the vistas of drought, overgrazing, and new agricultural development that the more direct road offered, but I would miss what must surely be the most dramatic picture of Chihuahua’s water crisis – the rapid shrinking of the Bustillos lagoon and the associated ecological problems.

Over the past few months I have been researching the water crisis in what William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness, calls the “American Southwest” – the transborder region that includes the continent’s four deserts.

In Chihuahua no one can remember drier years than the last two.

Remains of Laguna de Bustillos /Tom Barry

View of Anáhuac across Laguna de Bustillos /Tom Barry

A shimmer of water in the distance as the two-land road turned south toward Cuauhtémoc. Surrounding what remained of Laguna de Bustillos were several kilometers of parched and cracked dirt – not more overgrazed land, as I had first assumed, but the desiccated bed of the usually immense lagoon (which was historically r 25-30 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide).

Ringing the circumference of the largely dry lagoon lay a collar of dirt-poor communities – what remains of a string of thirteen ejidos (land grants or commons) that since the mid-1930s have struggled to make a living from the lake and the arid rangelands around it.

The lagoon had been drying up so rapidly that many thousands of trout had been caught in shrinking pools and flapped to death in puddles that had long since evaporated. Local government officials estimated that 20-30 tons of trout lay dead in the bed of the lagoon. The massive fish kill brought swarms of mosquitoes, precipitating a public health crisis.

For many decades, Laguna de Bustillos has been an ecological disaster.

Whether full of water draining down from the sierras in the west, or dry from drought and from dropping groundwater levels due to an explosion of new wells, the Bustillos lagoon has long been an environmental threat.

The wastes of all the surrounding villages and nearby towns, including Anáhuac and Cuauhtémoc, have long flowed into the lagoon, badly polluting the water. Academic researchers have repeatedly found that the water is “highly contaminated” and reported toxic levels of various minerals and coliform bacteria, especially fecal coliform resulting from wastewater flows from the surrounding villages and Cuauhtémoc.

Laguna de Bustillos at La Selva / Tom Barry

While the towns have taken some measures to prevent effluent flowing into the lagoon, researchers from universities in the United States and Mexico say that their studies show that agrochemicals, coming mainly from nearby Mennonite farms, now also poison the lagoon.

The immediate danger issues from the chemical-laden dust from the lake bottom that spreads over the area on windy days. When the water recedes, as it does every year, these contaminants blow off the lakebed, resulting in a high incidence of allergies and respiratory problems, according to news reports.

Yet it is outside the perimeter to the lagoon where the tragedy of rural development in Mexico may be most evident.

Settled in the mid-1930s as part of the post-revolutionary government’s agrarian reform, the land that rose edged up from the lagoon was once verdant and forested. Today, however, the land is almost as bare as the lagoon bottom, having been cleared of the Chihuahua pine and grazed to death.

La Selva, the ejido community that lies forlornly at the end of the road that skirts the lake, is anything but its namesake. No trees remain, but hefty tascate (juniper) timbers still stand exposed in the mud-caked structures built by the community’s founders. 

Tascate posts all that's left of juniper forest in La Selva / Tom Barry

More than half the inhabitants of these lakeside communities have left La Selva and its neighboring communities – many having abandoned the land for jobs in the United States and many younger members of the community land grant having left for Chihuahua and other cities, never to return.

For the last dozen years the community nearest to the libre has found some economic salvation in selling off their land. Favela, the community that abuts the libre, has over the past dozen years been contracting with construction companies to haul off the sand deposits that underlie the long-abused rangeland next to the town.

The several dozen homes of Favela stand between the dry lake on one side, and on the other a sand quarry that has left the adobe and cinder-block homes perched precariously on the edge of the excavation. 

Selling ejido land for construction materials at Favela / Tom Barry

Adrian Estrada, 57 years, who has farmed and grazed the ejido since a young boy, says told me that never before has drought been so intense and devastating in Favela. The lake had dried up before – during the 2002 drought – but never before, he said, had the springs in the surrounding hills stopped flowing and for the first time the lack of moisture and intensifying heat of the last few years is ravaging the pines in the sierras and canyons.

For the most part, the Mexican ejidos are sad testaments to the failure of the country’s agrarian reform – disposing often-marginal land to landless campesinos while providing little in the way of agtech, infrastructural, or marketing support. Government support from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corporatist political party whose presidential candidate won the most votes in the July 1 election, amid charges of fraud and vote-buying, have traditional counted on the support of the nation’s ejidatarios because of PRI’s patronage programs.

From the village looking out toward the disappearing lake and out over the long-since dead grasslands of the Chihuahua Desert, the scope of the tragedy is overwhelming.

As elsewhere in the region, it is hard to say whether the current drought is simply part of the cycle of droughts that have shaped Chihuahua or the onset of a new era – when, because of climate change, we can expect ever-more intense droughts and steadily rising spring and summer temperatures. What is clear, though, is that the ejidatarios and others who live in the vicinity have badly abused the land and water of their high-desert home.

Massive fish kill at Laguna de Bustillos / Tom Barry

View of lagoon from La Selva / Tom Barry

Just as I was about to return to the libre and make my way to Cuauhtémoc for the night, I saw the sign for a museum and there I found some hope and inspiration – which I have found routinely during my travels in Chihuahua.  (See next dispatch.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"¡Ah, Chihuahua!"

Chihuahua Chronicles #1

(The first of a series of dispatches about Chihuahua with a focus on the water crisis.)

New deep well drilling on Mennonite farm near Colonia Valle / Tom Barry

Seldom does a name of a place – Chihuahua – seem to capture so much of its identity and spirit. 

Perhaps that’s due to the name’s own expressive rhythm. Or it may have more to do with the many emotions associated with the popular expression
“¡Ah, Chihuahua!” whose beat and varied intonations communicate its different meaning  -- whether lament, astonishment, surprise, annoyance, or dismay.

It’s an expression that transcends the border, as so much of Chihuahua’s history, identity, economy, and culture is. Whether in English or Spanish,
 “¡Ah, Chihuahua!” or simply “¡Chihuahua!”

Chihuahua is certainly of pre-Hispanic origin, but its exact derivation is disputed. Some scholars say it’s a name linked to the land’s lack of water, while others argue that it signifies a place blessed with water.

Dry, Sandy Place

“Xicuahua,” a Nátuatl word meaning ‘dry, sandy place,” is the most widely accepted origin of Chihuahua.  It’s a vast state – Mexico’s largest – that is occupied by a desert with the same name. Chihuahua comprises one-eighth of the nation’s land. It’s a state larger than many countries, including Great Britain.

The Chihuahuan Desert, the largest and most diverse of North America’s four deserts – spreads through the heart of the state, dropping south from southeastern Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas.

Heading south across the border and through Ciudad Juárez, there is nothing but desert -- a vast aridness of mesquite, creosote bushes, tarbush, acacia, and occasional tuffs of zacate, mostly trimmed to ground by starving cattle. (An estimated 400,000 cattle have died on the range during the 2011-12 drought.)

More than 375 kilometers of desert pass before the toll road approaches Chihuahua City, the state’s capital. In the early 18th century the Spanish founded Santa Fe Real de Chihuahua, a villa that served as the midway point along the Camino Real between the rich mine of Hidalgo del Parral in the southwest to El Paso del Norte.

Although Spanish explorers had first passed through the northern territory that is now Chihuahua in 1528, it wasn’t until two centuries later that the Spanish and criollo elite began to settle in the region, drawn by the silver and gold mines in the Sierra Madre Occidental.  In the 1700s, the outpost of Chihuahua functioned largely as an administrative center for the region’s mines.

The Chihuahuan Desert envelops the city, extending south into Durango and east throughout Coahuila and edging into Nuevo Leon. In the state’s southeast corner lies a barren and barely populated expanse sometimes called the Zona del Silencio.

In many ways, the absence of water and the resulting harshness of the terrain seem to define Chihuahua. Aridness is its essence, and the struggle to survive in this stark land may help explain the reputation of Chihuahuenses – their determination, independence, pride, and infectious appreciation of life.

When the dust blows, when the sun parches, and when not a single tree breaks the horizon in any direction, Chihuahua certainly seems nothing but a dry, sandy, uninhabitable land – an unending, oppressive aridness.

Drought scene north of Ascencíon / Tom Barry

Where Rivers Meet

But there is another way to see Chihuahua: looking beyond the aridness to see how much the state is shaped and defined by the power, presence, and fundamental importance of water.

There are many who say Chihuahua’s name has more to do with water than desert. Before there was the territory, city, or state of Chihuahua, there were Rarámuris or Tarahumaras living at the intersection of two rivers, the Sacramento and the Chuvíscar.  When the Spanish moved in, they adopted a variation of the indigenous phrase meaning “the place where two rivers meet.”

No longer do these two rivers meet in Chihuahua. Only the sandy and gravel-strewn beds of the Sacramento and Chuvíscar remain – the rivers now running only immediately after torrential downpours during the summer’s monsoons.

Where there are (or once were) rivers in Chihuahua, there are also corridors and centers of human life. In the north, he Rio Bravo/Rio Grande separates Chihuahua from Texas, while the Rio Conchos (which runs southwest from the border town of Ojinaga) is that river’s largest tributary.

You don’t, however, need to spend much time in Chihuahua to recognize that its life depends on the sierras.  A third of Chihuahua is mountainous, and no other Mexican state has so much forested land. The melting snow and rainwater, which comes rushing and seeping down from the mountains into the grasslands and desert valleys, have made Chihuahua habitable.

Drug Wars Continue, Water Wars Begin

Over the past six years, no other state has been so closely associated with the horrors and the intensity of the drug-war violence of Mexico. For most people not from Chihuahua, whether inside or outside Mexico, the images and numbers of the drug wars have come to define Chihuahua.

In Chihuahua, you often hear the charge that the foreign media and the State Department have colluded to paint a misleading picture of a land besieged by crime, a type of “failed state.” In fact, they assert, most people, particularly those not involved in the drug trade and other organized crime, life has gone much as usual.

Yet, there is no disputing the graphic images of tortured victims and numbers of dead that have the state’s largest city the reputation as the world’s murder capital. The tens of thousands of Chihuahua residents who have fled the state are also testament to high levels of violence and fear that have swept across the state like a desert dust storm that blasts all in its path.

For whatever combination of factors (including the resolution of inter-cartel conflict, the decrease in social cleansing carried out by government and organized crime elements, and cyclical shift in pattern of crime), the drug-war related violence has diminished considerably over the last couple of years in Chihuahua, most notably in the epicenter Ciudad Juárez.

There is widespread hope in Chihuahua that the state has seen the worst of the drug wars – a hope engendered not only by the falling murder rates but also by the end of the Felipe Calderón sexenio and the belief that Enrique Peña Nieto (the winner of the contested election of July 1) and the PRI will engineer a truce among the cartels when he becomes the new master of Los Pinos in December – although Peña Nieto has explicitly discounted the prospect of negotiating with the cartels.

Overgrazed grassland south of Nuevo Casas Grandes / Tom Barry

In any case, the drug-war crisis in Chihuahua seems likely to be overshadowed in the near future by the escalating water crisis and accompanying water wars.

Wherever one travels – through the heart of the great desert, past the parched and rapidly disappearing grasslands, into the sierra, and off the traffic corridors into the colonias of the capital city and Juárez – life in Chihuahua is threatened. The essential aridness that has defined the region –giving rise to the Páquime civilization a thousand years ago and birthing the Mexican Revolution a hundred years ago – is threatened by a still greater aridness that is marked by higher temperatures, more severe droughts, and rapidly depleting aquifers.